Every year, more than two billion tons of garbage are dumped on a global level, and each person throws away approximately four pounds of trash per day.

Even though the enormous amounts of waste are harmful to the people and the environment, some individuals have managed to see all that garbage as an opportunity to make a huge fortune. Check out some clever people who made a fortune from garbage.

5Zhang Yin: The Cardboard Queen

Zhang Yin: The Cardboard Queen

Together with her husband, Zhang Yin decided to collect large amounts of scrap paper and cardboard in the US and ship the paper to China. The paper would then get recycled and turned into shipping boxes.

After ten years, Zhang Yin’s Nine Dragons Paper business boomed and her fortune grew to over 2 billion dollars. Today, Zhang Yin is among the richest women on the planet.

4Piet Hein Eek: Scrap Wood Artist

Piet Hein Eek: Scrap Wood Artist

For a final exam in design, this Dutch artist created furniture from discarded trash and scraps of wood. Later on, he sold his first collection of scrap wood furniture and created a buzz in the design industry.

Piet’s works became very popular and their prices increased to several thousand dollars for one piece. The artist makes beautiful tables, chairs, sculptures, and other pieces of furniture from scrap wood and has become one of the most popular green designers in the world.



Curt Degerman earned his nickname by collecting scrap metal and old cans from garbage bins in Skelleftea, Sweden. The locals would call him ‘Tin-Can-Curt’ because he would often ride a bicycle around the town in torn clothes and collect discarded cans, but what they didn’t know is that he became a secret millionaire.

Degerman managed to take the refunds that he got from recycling and invest in shares on the stock market. He did his research and earned approximately 1.5 million dollars.

2Matt Malone: Pro Dumpster Diver


Matt Malone isn’t ashamed of dumpster diving, especially because he makes thousands of dollars from it. For more than 10 years, Matt has been looking for valuable finds in dumpsters all over Austin, TX.

He makes a fortune from selling various discarded items like computer parts, cameras, tools, furniture, office supplies and other valuable items on eBay. PHS Wastekit, experts in disposing of waste environmentally commented “one man’s junk can well be another man’s treasure”

Even though Malone estimates that he earns around $250,000 from dumpster diving per year, he runs his own IT company, which he financed with the earnings from his adventures in dumpster diving.

1Maen Mahfoud: Food Rescue


Maen Mahfoud came to the US from Syria in order to study at Berkley and was extremely surprised by seeing a lot of poor people and large amounts of waste on the streets.

Inspired to fix things, Maen created a company called Replate which collects takes leftovers and surplus food from other companies and businesses and turns it into meals. In 2016, Replate was established in more than 300 cities and the company has distributed over 1 million meals from surplus food that would have been thrown away.

Maen is hoping to expand his business and distribute 30 million pounds of surplus food per year.